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Publication numberUS20090237541 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/076,634
Publication dateSep 24, 2009
Filing dateMar 20, 2008
Priority dateMar 20, 2008
Also published asUS8077236
Publication number076634, 12076634, US 2009/0237541 A1, US 2009/237541 A1, US 20090237541 A1, US 20090237541A1, US 2009237541 A1, US 2009237541A1, US-A1-20090237541, US-A1-2009237541, US2009/0237541A1, US2009/237541A1, US20090237541 A1, US20090237541A1, US2009237541 A1, US2009237541A1
InventorsRichard S. Johnson, John Ladd
Original AssigneeMicron Technology, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus providing reduced metal routing in imagers
US 20090237541 A1
Abstract
An imaging device and method for operating the device. The imaging device comprises a pixel array having a plurality of pixels arranged in rows and columns. At least one pixel of the array comprises a photosensor and a first reset circuit responsive to a first reset control signal for resetting the photosensor. A first terminal of the first reset circuit is coupled to the photosensor and a second terminal of the first reset circuit is configured to receive a first resetting voltage from a control line.
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Claims(25)
1. An imaging device, comprising:
a pixel array having a plurality of pixels arranged in rows and columns, at least one pixel of the array comprising:
a photosensor; and
a first reset circuit responsive to a first reset control signal for resetting the photosensor, said first reset circuit having a first terminal coupled to the photosensor and a second terminal configured to receive a first resetting voltage from a signal control line for the pixel.
2. The imaging device of claim 1, further comprising a storage gate circuit responsive to a storage gate control signal for transferring charge from the photosensor to a first storage node.
3. The imaging device of claim 1, wherein the signal control line is a row select line for the pixel.
4. The imaging device of claim 3, wherein the signal control line supplies a second reset control signal to a second reset circuit for a second storage node in a different pixel in a different row of the array.
5. The imaging device of claim 1, wherein the pixel further comprises a second reset circuit for resetting a second storage node of the pixel and that is responsive to a second reset control signal, the second reset circuit receiving the second reset control signal from a column line of the array.
6. The imaging device of claim 5, wherein a first terminal of the second reset circuit is coupled to the second storage node and a second terminal is configured to receive a second resetting voltage from the column line.
7. The imaging device of claim 5, further comprising a latch up circuit for switchably placing a voltage on a column line.
8. The imaging device of claim 1, wherein the signal control line is the first reset control line for supplying the first reset control signal to the pixel.
9. The imaging device of claim 1, further comprising a second reset circuit for resetting a second storage node of the pixel and that is responsive to a second reset control signal, wherein the signal control line is a second reset control line supplying the second reset control signal.
10. The imaging device of claim 1, further comprising a first reset control line for supplying the first reset control signal, wherein the first reset control line and the signal control line maintain a voltage sufficient to provide an anti-blooming feature for the photosensor.
11. A method of operating an imaging device comprising:
activating a global reset signal and a row select signal to reset a photosensor; and
activating the row select signal to selectively transfer a pixel reset signal and a photo signal to a column line.
12. The method of claim 11, further comprising activating a latch up signal to allow a latch up transistor to place a voltage on the column line.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the voltage on the column line activates a reset transistor that resets a first storage node to supply the pixel reset signal.
14. The method of claim 12, wherein the voltage on the column line is supplied by a reset transistor to reset the first storage node.
15. The method of claim 11, further comprising simultaneously resetting the photosensor and transferring a pixel reset signal to a column line.
16. The method of claim 11, further comprising activating a storage gate signal to transfer a charge from a second storage node to a first storage node.
17. The method of claim 11, further comprising deactivating the global reset signal and the row select signal before the activating of the row select signal and the reset control signal.
18. The method of claim 11, wherein the global reset signal and row select signal maintain a voltage sufficient to provide an anti-blooming feature for the photo sensor.
19. A method of operating a pixel circuit, the method comprising:
activating a first control line carrying a first control signal coupled to a first pixel in a first row to activate a reset transistor in a second pixel in a second row, and to simultaneously activate a row select transistor in the first pixel; and
activating a second control line to activate a global reset transistor in the first pixel to allow the first control signal to reset a photosensor in the first pixel.
20. The method of claim 19, further comprising activating a third control line to move a charge from a photosensor in the first pixel to a storage node in the first pixel.
21. The method of claim 19, wherein the first control line and second control line maintain a voltage sufficient to provide an anti-blooming feature for the photosensor in the first pixel.
22. A method of operating an imaging device comprising activating a global reset signal to activate a global reset transistor, the global reset transistor, upon activation, resetting a photosensor with the global reset signal.
23. The method of claim 22, further comprising activating a storage gate control signal to move a charge from the photosensor to a storage node.
24. A method of operating an imaging device comprising
activating a first signal to reset a photosensor with a second signal; and
activating the second signal and a third signal to selectively transfer a pixel reset signal to a column line.
25. The method of claim 24, further comprising activating a fourth signal to move a charge from the photosensor to a storage node.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments described herein relate generally to imaging devices having pixel arrays with pixels containing global reset transistors.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many portable electronic devices, such as cameras, cellular telephones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), MP3 players, computers, and other devices include an imaging device for capturing images. One example of an imaging device is a CMOS imager. A CMOS imager includes a focal plane array of pixels, each pixel including a photosensor, for example, a photodiode, overlying a substrate for producing a photo-generated charge in a doped region of the substrate. In a CMOS imager, the active elements of a pixel, for example a four transistor (4T) pixel, perform the functions of (1) photon to charge conversion; (2) transfer of charge to the floating diffusion region; (3) resetting the floating diffusion region to a known state; (4) selection of a pixel for readout; and (5) output and amplification of a signal representing a reset voltage and a pixel signal voltage based on the photo converted charges. The charge at the floating diffusion region is converted to a pixel or reset output voltage by a source follower output transistor.

Examples of CMOS imagers, processing steps thereof, and detailed descriptions of the functions of various elements of a CMOS imager are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,140,630, U.S. Pat. No. 6,376,868, U.S. Pat. No. 6,310,366, U.S. Pat. No. 6,326,652, U.S. Pat. No. 6,204,524, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,333,205, all assigned to Micron Technology, Inc.

Some imagers, however, allow for electronic shuttering. One technique for electronic shuttering is the use of a storage gate in the pixels. When a storage gate is implemented in a pixel design, a storage node is added such that charges accumulated in a photosensor are transferred through the storage gate to a storage node. An example of a pixel incorporating a storage gate is U.S. application Ser. No. 10/721,191, assigned to Micron Technology Inc.

In addition, some imagers include anti-blooming gates. Blooming is caused when too much light enters a pixel and the pixel becomes saturated and unable to hold all of the charge generated by the photosensor. Consequently, the excess photo-generated charge overflows the pixel and contaminates adjacent pixels with electrical crosstalk. The overflow charge from one pixel to the next can create a bright spot or streak in a resultant image, called blooming. Anti-blooming gates bleed off charge from a photosensor to avoid blooming crosstalk of adjacent pixels and the resultant error.

To provide an electronic shutter and alleviate blooming, a pixel has been developed containing an anti-blooming gate and a storage gate. A schematic diagram of such a pixel 10 is illustrated in FIG. 1A. The illustrated pixel 10 includes a photosensor 21 (e.g., photodiode) that is switchably coupled to a storage node 22 by a storage gate transistor 19. A global reset transistor 20 switchably couples the photosensor 21 to the array voltage Vaa. The storage node 22 is switchably coupled to a floating diffusion region FD by a transfer transistor 18. The floating diffusion region FD is further connected to a gate of a source follower transistor 16. A row select transistor 17 selectively couples the source follower transistor 16 to a column line 23. A reset transistor 15 switchably couples the array voltage Vaa to the floating diffusion region FD.

The pixel 10 also includes a global reset line 24 coupled to the gate of the global reset transistor 20 as well as to the gates of other global reset transistors in the respective pixels of an array. A storage gate control line 14 is coupled to the gate of the storage gate transistor 19 as well as to the gates of other storage gate transistors in the respective pixels of an array. A row select line 13 is coupled to the gate of the row select transistor 17. A transfer control line 12 is coupled to the gate of the transfer transistor 18. A reset control line 11 is coupled to the gate of the reset transistor 15. The global reset line 24 carries a global reset control signal GR, storage gate control line 14 carries a storage gate control signal SG, row select line 13 carries a row select signal RS, transfer control line 12 carries a transfer control signal TX and reset control line 11 carries a reset control signal RST.

FIG. 1B shows one possible method of operating the FIG. 1A pixel 10. A global transfer operation is performed on a pixel 10 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SG is activated, transferring the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR is activated, allowing the global reset transistor 20 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 1B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. The first step in reading out the pixel 10 is activating the row select signal RS. Next, the reset control signal RST is activated to reset the floating diffusion region FD. The reset charge at the floating diffusion region FD is read by the source follower transistor 16. A pixel reset signal Vrst is output by the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23, which routes the signal to sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the pixel reset signal Vrst when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. Next, the transfer control signal TX is activated transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23. Column line 23 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

Optionally, the global reset signal GR maintains a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed line 51, allowing photosensor 21 to bleed excess charge to the array voltage Vaa to provide an anti-blooming capability. To allow charge bleeding by the photosensor 21, the low positive voltage 51 must be higher than the voltage of the photosensor 21.

With additional lines and transistors, pixels with anti-blooming and/or storage gate transistors require additional metal routing that interferes with an optical path to the photosensor and, therefore, suffer from decreased fill factor and quantum efficiency. Accordingly, there is a desire for a pixel having anti-blooming and/or storage gate functionality with improved fill factor and quantum efficiency.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A illustrates a prior art pixel for use in an array of an imaging device.

FIG. 1B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a prior art pixel.

FIG. 2A is a diagram of a pixel according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 2B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 3A is a diagram of a pixel according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 3B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 4A is a diagram of a pixel according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 4B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 5A is a diagram of a pixel according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 5B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 6A is a diagram of a pixel according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 6B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 7A is a diagram of a portion of a pixel array according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 7B is a timing diagram depicting an example of a method for operating a pixel array constructed according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an imaging device according to an embodiment described herein.

FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a processor system according to an embodiment described herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following detailed description, reference is made to various embodiments of the invention that are described with sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice them. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be employed, and that various structural, logical and electrical changes may be made. The progression of processing steps described is an example of embodiments of the invention; however, the sequence of steps is not limited to that set forth herein and may be changed as is known in the art, with the exception of steps necessarily occurring in a certain order.

Various embodiments described herein provide reduced metal routing in an imager by combining metal routing lines within a pixel and neighboring pixels. By combining lines to carry signals to and from more than one circuit, metal lines are reduced; thus, allowing for more area for the photosensor and its associated optical path, and an increase in quantum efficiency.

The term “pixel,” as used herein, refers to a photo-element unit cell containing at least a photosensor for converting photons to an electrical signal. For purposes of illustration, a small number of representative pixels are illustrated in the figures and description herein; however, typically fabrication of a large plurality of like pixels for an array proceeds simultaneously. Accordingly, the following detailed description is not to be taken in a limiting sense. While not shown in this application, embodiments described herein should be understood to include shared pixel architectures. One example of shared lines in shared pixel architectures is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/004,033, filed Dec. 20, 2007, and assigned to Micron Technology Inc.

Now referring to the figures, where like reference numbers designate like elements, FIG. 2A illustrates an example of a pixel 100 in accordance with a first embodiment. Pixel 100 differs from pixel 10 in FIG. 1A in that pixel 100 has a first terminal of a global reset transistor 120 coupled to a row select line 113 instead of the array voltage Vaa (FIG. 1A), the significance of which is described below.

Pixel 100 (FIG. 2A) includes a photosensor 21 (e.g., photodiode) that is switchably coupled to a storage node 22 by a storage gate transistor 19. As mentioned above, the global reset transistor 120 switchably couples the photosensor 21 to a row select line 113. The storage node 22 is switchably coupled to a floating diffusion region FD by a transfer transistor 18. The floating diffusion region FD is further connected to a gate of a source follower transistor 16. A row select transistor 17 selectively couples the source follower transistor 16 to a column line 23. A reset transistor 15 switchably couples the array voltage Vaa to the floating diffusion region FD.

The pixel 100 also includes a global reset line 24 coupled to the gate of the global reset transistor 120 as well as to the gates of other global reset transistors in the respective pixels of an array. A storage gate control line 14 is coupled to the gate of the storage gate transistor 19 as well as to the gates of other storage gate transistors in the respective pixels of an array. A row select line 113 is coupled to the gate of the row select transistor 17. A transfer control line 12 is coupled to the gate of the transfer transistor 18. A reset control line 11 is coupled to the gate of the reset transistor 15. The global reset line 24 carries a global reset control signal GR, storage gate control line 14 carries storage gate control signal SG, row select line 113 carries row select signal RS, transfer control line 12 carries transfer control signal TX and reset control line 11 carries reset control signal RST.

While FIG. 2A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 100, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 and storage node 22 are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 2B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of the FIG. 2A pixel 100. The timing diagram in FIG. 2B differs from the timing diagram in FIG. 1B in that the row select signal RS must also be activated during the global shutter operation because the global reset transistor 120 has a first terminal coupled to the row select line 113.

Referring to FIG. 2B, a global transfer operation is performed on a pixel 100 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SG is activated, transferring the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR and row select signal RS are activated allowing the global reset transistor 120 to transfer the row select signal RS to the photosensor 21 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 2B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. The first step in reading out the pixel 100 is activating the row select signal RS. Next, the reset control signal RST is activated to transfer a charge through the reset transistor 15 to the floating diffusion region FD and then to the source follower transistor 16. A pixel reset signal Vrst is output by the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23, which routes the signal to sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the pixel reset signal Vrst when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. Next, the transfer control signal TX is activated transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23. Column line 23 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed lines 150, 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the row select line 113 and global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 is always able to bleed excess charge to the row select line 113 to provide an anti-blooming capability. The row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

FIG. 3A illustrates an example of a pixel 200 in accordance with a second embodiment. Pixel 200 differs from pixel 100 (FIG. 2A) in that pixel 200 has a gate of a reset transistor 215 coupled to the column line 223 that receives the pixel output signals Vrst, Vsig. Furthermore, pixel 200 has a latch up transistor 225, which has a gate coupled to a latch up control line 226, a first terminal coupled to the array voltage Vaa and a second terminal coupled to the column line 223. Because the latch up transistor 225, controlled by the latch up control signal LU, switchably couples the array voltage Vaa to the column line 223, and the gate of the reset transistor 215 is coupled to the column line 223, the latch up control signal LU controls the gate of reset transistor 215. The global reset transistor 120 has a first terminal coupled to the row select line 113, eliminating the need for a metal line to supply the array voltage Vaa to the first terminal of the global reset transistor 120. The gate of the reset transistor 215 is coupled to the column line 223, thus eliminating the reset control line 11 (FIGS. 1, 2).

While FIG. 3A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 200, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 and storage node 22 are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 3B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of a FIG. 3A pixel 200. The timing in FIG. 3B differs from the timing in FIG. 2B in that the pixel reset signal Vrst is sent to reset sample and hold circuit 29 during the global shutter operation when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated and therefore need not be done during the rolling readout operation. Also, the timing in FIG. 3B includes the latch up control signal LU for activating the reset transistor 215, and does not include the reset control signal RST illustrated in FIG. 2B.

Referring to FIG. 3B, a global transfer operation is performed on the pixel 200 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SG and latch up control signal LU are activated. Activating storage gate control signal SG transfers the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22 and activating the latch up control signal LU places a voltage on the column line 223. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR and row select signal RS are activated allowing the global reset transistor 120 to transfer the row select signal RS to the photosensor 21 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. In addition, because the latch up control signal LU remains activated during the global shutter operation, a reset voltage is transferred through the reset transistor 215, through the floating diffusion region FD, out to the column line as a pixel reset signal Vrst, and stored in the sample and hold circuit 29 when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 3B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. Because the pixel reset voltage Vrst was stored during the global shutter operation, only the photo signal Vsig needs to be read out during the rolling readout operation. The first step in reading out the pixel 200 is activating the transfer control signal TX thereby transferring-the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 223. Column line 223 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed lines 150, 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the row select line 113 and global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 is always able to bleed excess charge to the row select line 113 to provide an anti-blooming capability. The row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

While FIG. 3B shows the latch up control signal LU activated during the global transfer operation to reduce blooming by keeping the floating diffusion region FD at a high potential, the latch up control signal can also be inactivated during the global transfer operation to help reduce dark current.

FIG. 4A illustrates an example of a pixel 300 in accordance with a third embodiment. Pixel 300 differs from pixel 200 (FIG. 3A) in that the gate and first terminal of a reset transistor 315 are both coupled to the column line 223 using a single, combined line for activation and passing a voltage to the floating diffusion region FD. As a result, pixel 300 has a first terminal of the reset transistor 315 coupled to the column line 223 instead of being connected to the array voltage Vaa as in pixel 200 (FIG. 3A). The global reset transistor 120 couples a first terminal to the row select line 113, eliminating the need for a metal line to supply the array voltage Vaa to the first terminal of the global reset transistor 120. Both the first terminal and gate of the reset transistor 315 are coupled to the column line 223.

While FIG. 4A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 300, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 and storage node 22 are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 4B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of a FIG. 4A pixel 300. The timing in FIG. 4B is essentially the same as the timing in FIG. 3B for pixel 200. A global transfer operation is performed on the pixel 300 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SG and a latch up control signal LU are activated. Activating storage gate control signal SG transfers the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22 and activating the latch up control signal LU places a voltage on the column line 223. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR and row select signal RS are activated allowing the global reset transistor 120 to transfer the row select signal RS to the photosensor 21 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. In addition, because the latch up control signal LU remains activated during the global shutter operation, a reset voltage is transferred through the reset transistor 315, through the floating diffusion region FD, out to the column line as a pixel reset signal Vrst, and stored in the sample and hold circuit 29 when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 4B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. Because the pixel reset voltage Vrst was stored during the global shutter operation, only the photo signal Vsig needs to be read out during the rolling readout operation. The first step in reading out the pixel 200 is activating the transfer control signal TX thereby transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 223. Column line 223 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a low positive voltage when deactivated, shown by dashed lines 150, 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the row select line 113 and global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 is always able to bleed excess charge to the row select line 113 to provide an anti-blooming capability. The row select signal RS and global reset signal GR maintain a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

While FIG. 4B shows the latch up control signal LU activated during the global transfer operation to reduce blooming by keeping the floating diffusion region FD at a high potential, the latch up control signal can also be inactivated during the global transfer operation to help reduce dark current.

FIG. 5A illustrates an example of a pixel 400 in accordance with a fourth embodiment. Pixel 400 differs from pixel 300 (FIG. 4A) in that pixel 400 has a first terminal of a global reset transistor 420 coupled to the global reset control line 24. Both the first terminal and gate of the reset transistor 315 are coupled to the column line, and therefore share a single line. A metal line is not needed to couple the first terminal of the global reset transistor 420 to the array voltage Vaa.

While FIG. 5A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 300, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 and storage node 22 are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 5B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of a FIG. SA pixel 400. The timing in FIG. 5B for pixel 400 differs from the timing in FIG. 4B for pixel 300 in that only the global reset control signal GR is activated during the global shutter operation because both the gate and first terminal of the global reset transistor 420 are coupled to the global reset control line 24. In addition, the pixel reset signal Vrst is sampled during the rolling readout operation in pixel 400, not during the global shutter operation as in pixel 300, because the row select signal RS is not activated during the global shutter operation.

Referring now to FIG. 5B, a global transfer operation is performed on the pixel 400 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, storage gate control signal SG and a latch up control signal LU are activated. Activating storage gate control signal SG transfers the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22 and activating the latch up control signal LU places a voltage on the column line 223. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR is activated, allowing the global reset transistor 420 to transfer the global reset control signal GR to the photosensor 21 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 5B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. The first step in reading out the pixel 400 is activating the row select signal RS. Because the latch up control signal LU remains activated, a charge is transferred from the reset transistor 15 to the floating diffusion region FD and then to the source follower transistor. 1 6. A pixel reset signal Vrst is output by the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 223 which routes the signal to sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the pixel reset signal Vrst when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. Next, the transfer control signal TX is activated thereby transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 223. Column line 223 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the global reset signal GR maintains a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed line 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 is always able to bleed excess charge to the row select line 13 to provide an anti-blooming capability. The global reset signal GR maintains a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

While FIG. 5B shows the latch up control signal LU activated during the global transfer operation to reduce blooming by keeping the floating diffusion region FD at a high potential, the latch up control signal can also be inactivated during the global transfer operation to help reduce dark current.

FIG. 6A illustrates an example of a pixel 500 in accordance with a fifth embodiment. Pixel 500 differs from pixel 100 (FIG. 2A) in that pixel 500 has a first terminal of a global reset transistor 520 coupled to a reset control line 511 instead of being coupled to the array voltage Vaa (FIG. 1). A metal line is not needed to couple the first terminal of the global reset transistor 520 to the array voltage Vaa.

While FIG. 6A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 500, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 and storage node 22 are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment.

FIG. 6B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of a FIG. 6A pixel 500. The timing in FIG. 6B for pixel 500 differs from the timing in FIG. 2B for pixel 100 in that the reset control signal RST, not the row select signal RS, is activated during the global shutter operation.

Referring to FIG. 6B, a global transfer operation is performed on the pixel 500 that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SG is activated, transferring the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 to the storage node 22. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR and reset control signal RST are activated allowing the global reset transistor 520 to transfer the reset control signal RST to the photosensor 21 to reset the photosensor 21 for a next integration period. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 6B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22. The first step in reading out the pixel 500 is activating the row select signal RS. Next, the reset control signal RST is activated to transfer a charge through the reset transistor 15 to the floating diffusion region FD and then to the source follower transistor 16. A pixel reset signal Vrst is output by the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23, which routes the signal to sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the pixel reset signal Vrst when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. Next, the transfer control signal TX is activated transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FD. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 through row select transistor 17 to column line 23. Column line 23 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the reset control signal RST and global reset signal GR maintain a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed lines 550, 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the reset control line 511 and global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 is always able to bleed excess charge to the reset control line 511 to provide an anti-blooming capability. The reset control signal RST and global reset signal GR maintain a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

FIG. 7A illustrates a portion of a pixel array containing vertically adjacent pixels 600 n, 600 n+1 in accordance with a sixth embodiment, where n is the current row in the pixel array and n+1 is the next row in the pixel array. For clarity, only pixel 600 n will be described because the components of the pixels 600 n, 600 n+1 are identical.

Pixel 600 n has a row/reset control line 627 n that is coupled to the gate of the row select transistor 617 n of pixel 600 n in the current row, the gate of the reset transistor 615 n+1 in a vertically adjacent pixel 600 n+1 and a first terminal of the global reset transistor 620 n of pixel 600 n. The row/reset control line 627 n carries the row select signal RS for pixel 600 n and the reset control signal RST for a vertically adjacent pixel 600 n+1. The row/reset control line 627 n also supplies the voltage to reset the photosensor 621 n (via global reset transistor 620 n). The row select and reset control lines are shared between adjacent pixels, thus eliminating one metal line from each row of the pixel array. The global reset transistor 620 n shares the row/reset control line 627 n as well.

While FIG. 7A shows a six transistor (6T) pixel 600 n, in an alternate embodiment, the storage gate transistor 19 n and storage node 22 n are not included; thus, a five transistor (5T) pixel can also implement the illustrated embodiment. Furthermore, while FIG. 7A shows row/reset control line 627 n coupled to a reset transistor 615 n+1 in a following row, in an alternate embodiment row/reset control line 627 n is coupled to a reset transistor 615 n−1 in a previous row.

FIG. 7B shows one possible timing diagram for the operation of a FIG. 7A pixel 600 n. The timing in FIG. 7B differs from the timing in FIGS. 2B-6B because the row select signal RS and reset control signal RST are transferred on the same line.

Referring to FIG. 7B, a global transfer operation is performed on the pixel 600 n that has been integrating charge at the photosensor 21 n. During the global transfer operation, the storage gate control signal SGn is activated to transfer the charge accumulated by the photosensor 21 n to the storage node 22 n. A global shutter operation is performed during which the global reset control signal GR and row/reset control signal RSn−1/RSTn are activated allowing the global reset transistor 620n to transfer the row/reset control signal RSn−1/RSTn to the photosensor 21 n to reset the photosensor 21 n for a next integration period. As shown in FIG. 7B, row/reset control signal RSn/RSTn+1 is also activated because all row/reset control signals in the pixel array are shuttered concurrently during the global shutter operation. When the global reset signal GR is inactivated at the end of the global shutter operation, the photosensor 21 n begins integration of a new charge that will be processed according to the method of FIG. 7B during the next global transfer operation.

While the photosensor 21 n integrates charge for future processing, a pixel array rolling readout operation is performed of the charge already transferred to the storage node 22 n. The first step in reading out the pixel 600 n is activating the row/reset control signal RSn/RSTn+1. Next, the row/reset control signal RSn−1/RSTn is activated to transfer a charge through the reset transistor 615 n to the floating diffusion region FDn and then to the source follower transistor 16 n. A pixel reset signal Vrst is output by the source follower transistor 16 n through row select transistor 617 n to column line 23 which routes the signal to sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the pixel reset signal Vrst when the reset sample and hold select signal SHR is activated. Next, the transfer control signal TXn is activated transferring the integrated charge from the storage node 22 to the floating diffusion region FDn. This charge is output as the photo signal Vsig from the output of the source follower transistor 16 n through row select transistor 617 n to column line 23. Column line 23 routes the signal to the sample and hold circuit 29, which samples and holds the photo signal Vsig when the pixel signal sample and hold select signal SHS is activated.

In a modified embodiment, the row/reset control signal RSn/RSTn+1 and global reset signal GR maintain a low positive voltage when inactive, shown by dashed lines 650, 151. By maintaining at least some positive voltage on the row/reset control line 627 n and global reset control line 24, photosensor 21 n is always able to bleed excess charge to the row/reset control line 627 n to provide an anti-blooming capability. The row/reset control signal RSn/RSTn+1 and global reset signal GR maintain a minimum positive voltage higher than that of the photosensor 21.

Combinations of the various embodiments described herein are also possible. For example, the global reset transistor 420 of FIG. 5A with a first terminal and gate coupled to the global reset control line 24 can be combined with the row/reset control line 627 of FIG. 7A. In addition, global reset transistor 420 of FIG. 5A with a first terminal and gate coupled to the global reset control line 24 can be used with the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A. Furthermore, it is to be understood that all pixel arrays containing embodiments described herein can read out from top-to-bottom or from bottom-to-top.

FIG. 8 illustrates a block diagram example of a CMOS imager 800 having a pixel array 830 constructed in accordance with any of the embodiments and modified embodiments described above. Pixel array 830 comprises a plurality of pixels arranged in a predetermined number of columns and rows. The pixels of each row in array 830 are operated by row select lines, and the pixels of each column are selectively output by respective column select lines. A plurality of row and column lines are provided for the entire array 830. The row lines are selectively activated by a row driver 840 in response to row address circuit 834. The column select lines are selectively activated by a column addressing circuit 844. Thus, a row and column address is provided for each pixel. The pixel signals Vrst, Vsig read out from each pixel are subtracted in differential amplifier 860 and are converted to digital signals by analog-to-digital converter 864 that supplies the digital signal to an image processing circuit that processes each pixel signal and forms an image that can be displayed, stored, or output.

FIG. 9 shows a typical system 900 modified to include an imager 800 constructed and operated in accordance with an embodiment. The system 900 is a system having digital circuits that could include imaging devices. Without being limiting, such a system could include a computer system, camera system, scanner, machine vision, vehicle navigation, video phone, surveillance system, auto focus system, star tracker system, motion detection system, image stabilization system, or other image acquisition system.

System 900, for example a digital still or video camera system, generally comprises a central processing unit (CPU) 902, such as a control circuit or microprocessor for conducting camera functions, that communicates with one or more input/output (I/O) devices 906 over a bus 904. Imaging device 800 also communicates with the CPU 902 over the bus 904. The system 900 also includes random access memory (RAM) 910, and can include removable memory 915, such as flash memory, which also communicates with the CPU 902 over the bus 904. The imaging device 800 may be combined with the CPU processor with or without memory storage on a single integrated circuit or on a different chip than the CPU processor. In a camera system, a lens 920 is used to focus light onto the pixel array 830 of the imaging device 800 when a shutter release button 922 is pressed.

The above description and drawings are only to be considered illustrative of specific embodiments, which achieve the features and advantages described herein. Modification and substitutions to specific structures can be made. Accordingly, the invention is not to be considered as being limited by the foregoing description and drawings, but is only limited by the scope of the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8077236 *Mar 20, 2008Dec 13, 2011Aptina Imaging CorporationMethod and apparatus providing reduced metal routing in imagers
US8130300 *Dec 20, 2007Mar 6, 2012Aptina Imaging CorporationImager method and apparatus having combined select signals
US8390692 *Jan 26, 2010Mar 5, 2013Olympus Imaging Corp.Image pick up apparatus and image pick up method capable of reading signal charge for image display by newly performing exposure while reading signal charge for still image by simultaneous exposure of all pixels
US20090160990 *Dec 20, 2007Jun 25, 2009Micron Technology, Inc.Imager method and apparatus having combined select signals
US20100194958 *Jan 26, 2010Aug 5, 2010Tsutomu HondaImaging pickup apparatus and image pickup method
US20130128089 *Jan 3, 2013May 23, 2013Micron Technology, Inc.Vertical 4-way shared pixel in a single column with internal reset and no row select
Classifications
U.S. Classification348/308, 348/E03.021, 348/241, 348/E03.018
International ClassificationH04N5/359, H04N5/3745, H04N3/14
Cooperative ClassificationH04N5/37452, H04N5/3592, H04N5/3745, H04N5/374
European ClassificationH04N5/359A1, H04N5/3745, H04N5/3745A
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